If one wants to make sense of all the madness brewing from week’s Republican hijacking of the State Senate, all one has to do is ask Mill Basin/Sheepshead Bay State Senator Carl Kruger.
But be warned. You may not like his answer.
“The only thing sure about Albany is it’s position on the map, everything else is up for discussion,” Kruger explained, describing life in the Senate amid the loggerhead of lunatics vying for control of the legislative body -- a fight that continued well into this week.
Throughout the headline-grabbing ups and downs that involved everything from protests to closed-door meetings and courtroom dramas, Brooklyn legislators stood at the center of this ranging storm this week, and one Brooklynite was called upon to hold the Democrats together.
With Majority Leader Malcolm Smith’s leadership being called into question, Canarsie State Senator John Sampson was elevated to a new leadership position where he would be responsible for overseeing the Senate’s day-to-day operations.
Political insiders said that Sampson, who is being called President Pro-Temp, is basically the new Majority Leader without that official title.
To recap a week’s worth of confusion, Senate Republicans blindsided everyone and wrested control of the Senate when Democrats Pedro Espada, Jr. of the Bronx and Hiram Monserrate of Queens agreed to caucus with the Republicans.
Outraged Democrats called the power switch illegal, and refused to hand over the keys to the Senate chamber. All Senate business stalled for the rest of the week as Democrats went to court to try to nullify the new Republican leadership.
Yet everything changed Monday when Monserrate flip-flopped and said that he was back with the Democrats, meaning that the 62-member Senate will be completely deadlocked 31-31 over important issues like gay marriage and school governance, especially since there is no lieutenant governor to break tie votes.
Monserrate’s double defection did nothing to alleviate more important questions, such as who the heck is running this asylum, anywayi
Insiders said that Republican State Senator Dean Skelos still wants to be Majority Leader -- even though there isn’t a clear majority -- and refused to give up the position because Senate leadership comes with more power, more money and has the ability to approve or disapprove legislation before it even reaches the Senate floor.
Sampson, Kruger and Smith were among a power-sharing discussion on Monday night in which Democrats proposed that Democratic and Republican presidents of the Senate alternate daily, floor leaders alternate daily and a six-member Senate conference committee comprising three Democrats and three Republicans would work together to determine which legislation is voted upon.
Republicans didn’t bite.
When the two groups couldn’t agree on a compromise, the upstate judge ruling over the fiasco dismissed the Democrats’ case. Democrats said that they are not going to appeal.
“Our conference has come together to make a commitment to the people of New York to uphold those Democratic principles and put the people’s business above politics and I strongly urge Senate Republicans and Pedro Espada to join us and get back to governing,” Sampson said in a statement. “Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, the people of New York have put their faith in us to lead. If Senate Republicans and Pedro Espada are serious about reform and getting results, they will put people before politics, like we have.”
As this paper went to press, none of the committee positions have changed, meaning that Kruger is still head of the powerful Finance Committee. Other borough Democrats are holding on to their positions as well, at least so far.
Yet the pain and the shock still lingers. It doesn’t seem that anyone is going to look at their colleague across the aisle the same way again.
“Regardless of the outcome, the Republicans will be responsible for making the city budget crash and burn and be responsible for tens of thousands of layoffs the Mayor is going to have to order in order to balance the budget,” Kruger explained, while asking Mayor Bloomberg, whom he called the “titular head of the Republican party in the city,” to step up and urge Senate Republicans to play ball.
“We do not practice ‘I got ya’ government in America,” said Fort Greene/Park Slope State Senator Eric Adams. “No matter what level of government, if you have a problem with the leadership, you should bring it to the floor. You vote to change government. But what the Republicans did, which they are well aware of, is that instead of going through the legal process, they circumvented the whole thing. We decided not to participate in the charade.”
Facing the new wacky world order in front of him, Adams only has one message to his colleagues in the State Senate.
“We’re going to have to ask what Rodney King asked, ‘Can’t we all just get alongi’”